Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has described Wednesday evening’s match against Paris Saint-Germain as no less than a “meeting of two cultures and philosophies.”
On the one hand you have Bayern, a member of European football’s traditional aristocracy – a rich club that isn’t shy about spending big to strengthen its lineup, but one that has rejected the idea of spending the sort of record-breaking sums that changed hands over the off-season. “[A player] for €100 million ($118 million) is not acceptable for Bayern,” the club’s president Uli Hoeness told Monday’s edition of the German football newspaper Kicker.
On the other hand, you have PSG, who could be described as a member of European football’s nouveau riche, backed since 2011 by Qatar Sports Investments’ seemingly unlimited supply of funds. They are the very team that led the way in this past summer’s orgy of spending, setting the world transfer record by triggering Neymar’s €222-million released clause at Barcelona, before following this up with their purchase of Kylian Mbappe for a reported €180 million.
And it seems the sides can’t wait to see how they match up in the first really big game of the season for both.
Neymar signed for PSG for €222m during the summer
The world is watching
Speaking to reporters at Munich’s airport just before Bayern flew off to the French capital, Rummenigge said it had been a long time since he looked forward to a Champions League match as much as this one – and that “the entire world of football will be watching.”
He also expressed confidence that Bayern would leave Paris with at least a point, saying that his club’s players were always “highly motivated” going into such big games.
Had these teams faced each other five or six years ago, Bayern would have been the favorites, but with all of the spending that Paris Saint-Germain have done over the past few years, things now aren’t as clear.
“We need to enjoy this game, because this is one of the first times that I feel we are on an equal foot with Bayern Munich,” PSG midfielder Marco Verratti told the prematch press conference in Paris on Tuesday. “It’s the result of five years of work.”
Asked about Bayern’s criticism about the French club’s spending over the summer, PSG coach Unai Emery said it was a sign that his team was, for the first time, a serious contender for the title.
“If people talk about PSG a lot, it’s because this is one of the best teams in Europe, and in the world,” the former Sevilla coach said. “That’s why we have more enemies now. They can see that this team is serious, and that with the players we bought this year and in the previous years, we have made a step forward to win the Champions League.”
While both teams won their first Group B matches, under former PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti, the usually dominant Bayern have stumbled slightly in the first six weeks of the Bundesliga season and are coming off a disappointing 2-2 draw against Wolfsburg. PSG, on the other hand, are top of Ligue 1, but dropped points for the first time in their opening seven games of the season, playing to a scoreless draw at Montpellier last time out.
Big job for Joshua
A major factor in the match is expected to be how well Bayern are able to reign in Edinson Cavani, Mbappe, and of course Neymar. Ancelotti is expected to entrust Joshua Kimmich with shouldering much of the burden here. Asked if he was daunted by the task the 22-year-old replied: “No, I’m looking forward to it.”
Joshua Kimmich in action for Bayern
Then there is the question of who will take a penalty, should PSG draw one. Neymar and Cavani got into a dispute over the issue in the 2-0 win over Olympique Lyonnais nine days ago, when Neymar tried to take a penalty instead of Cavani, who eventually had his spot-kick stopped by the keeper.
Coach Emery tried to play down the danger of another bust-up.
“The player who feels ready should take it. The most important thing is to convert them,” he said.
As for Bayern, with first-choice keeper Manuel Neuer out until early next year, Sven Ullrich, who blundered badly against Wolfsburg on Friday, will again be between the sticks. And according to Dutch winger Arjen Robben, the team in front of him have complete confidence in their backup.
“Of course it was a bitter moment for him. But he is mentally strong enough and will have a good game,” Robben said.